chapter  3
14 Pages

Biologically oriented explanations of criminal behaviour

One of the main problems faced by criminological psychology is explaining why people become criminals. This knowledge might open the way to preventing crime through psychological or other interventions. This chapter and the next will examine a number of different theories that aim to explain why some people become criminals. The theories considered in this chapter have been grouped together as ‘biologically oriented’ as they are all based around the idea that criminality is the effect of genetic or biological characteristics of the individual. However, within this general theme there is great variation in the kinds of theories which have been put forward. This chapter will first consider two early theories which suggested that criminal tendencies were inherited, before moving on to a discussion of more recent genetic research and a consideration of the role of brain abnormalities in criminality. Finally, Eysenck’s personality theory will be discussed. Although this originates in the psychometric, rather than the biological tradition in psychology, it is included here because Eysenck argued that personality has a biological basis.